Buying a house is an exciting time. Many couples buy a home when they begin their lives together, and often it becomes the place where children are raised and a lifetime of memories are made.
When you’ve lived in the same place for years, it’s easy to get comfortable and start to ignore simple tasks that help you maintain the health of your home. Unfortunately, most houses require more than a simple sweep and mop once a week, and failing to keep up on routine maintenance can have consequences down the line. If you’re thinking about tackling a few interior renovation projects, it’s a great idea to start that process by creating a healthier environment.
Many families could be living in toxic homes and not even know it! While some toxins are more dangerous than others, it’s possible to remove all of them from your home to create a healthier and happier environment. Here are four common dangers to avoid and what to do to remove them:
Radon is a radioactive gas that is colorless, tasteless, and odorless. Due to decaying uranium, it’s present in ground soil and sometimes even in the air we breathe. Radon can enter your home through small cracks in the walls or foundation, especially in basements where gas leaks in from the soil. Once inside, it can become problematic as long-term exposure has been proven to cause lung cancer. According to the EPA, thousands of lives are lost each year to lung cancer patients who were exposed to radon.
There are a couple different options available to check your home for the gas. You can opt for a 2-3 day radon test kit to assess the levels in your home, or you can choose to do a more in-depth 90-day test. To get a more accurate reading, it’s important to keep your windows and doors closed throughout the process. If your radon levels read higher than 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L), work with a professional to determine the best course of action to reduce the amount of gas entering your home.
Similar to radon, carbon monoxide (CO) is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, making it undetectable to our senses. In the U.S., CO is the second-leading cause of non-medical poisoning deaths each year. Carbon monoxide can also affect anyone in the family, including pets. To reduce the risk of being exposed to the poison, it’s important to have a CO detector on every floor of your home and near any sleeping areas.
Side effects associated with low exposure to carbon monoxide include recurring spells of dizziness and/or headaches. Symptoms of long-term exposure to carbon monoxide can mimic those of the flu or a cold. Be on the lookout for symptoms such as vision impairment, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath and chest pains.
Carbon monoxide detectors should be tested monthly. An easy way to remember this is to set an alarm and test your smoke detector with it. Testing the alarm is pretty easy, and most CO detectors have a “test” button you have to hold down until you hear two beeps. Different brands make different types of detectors, so it’s a good idea to search for the specific brand you have in your house to make sure you’re testing it properly. While testing, don’t forget to keep in mind how old your detector is. Most CO detectors have a lifespan of 10 years, but it is highly suggested you replace them every five to seven years.
While a do-it-yourself renovation is a fun and a cheap alternative to having contractors come in, it’s important to know how old your home is before beginning a project. Asbestos is a group of fibrous silicate minerals known for its special heat-resistant properties, and can typically be found in homes built before the 1980s.
Asbestos is durable, making it a great additive to many construction materials. Common products where the mineral was used include ceiling tiles, floors, insulation, walls, and more. Asbestos becomes dangerous when materials containing it are unknowingly tampered with. If the toxic fibers become airborne and are inhaled or ingested, it could eventually lead to mesothelioma, a rare but preventable disease. Due to the disease’s long latency period, a person can be exposed to asbestos many years before showing any symptoms or signs. By the time the symptoms manifest the cancer has often progressed to the third or fourth stages when prognosis is poor.
If your home was built before 1978 and still has its original paint, it’s best to test for lead! Lead is toxic to humans, especially children. Each year, 310,000 children between the ages of 1-5 are found to have unsafe levels of lead in their bodies. Have a professional come in to check the paint and ensure the safety of everyone in the home.
Children and pregnant women shouldn’t be around renovation projects that involve disturbing old paint. After testing the paint and walls for lead, it’s still good practice to wear gloves and face masks when sanding or scraping old paint.
Taking care of your home doesn’t have to require a lot of work, time, or effort, but it’s important to remember to do so. By taking precautions to avoid or remove potential toxins in your house, your family will remain happy and healthy for years to come.
About the Author
Emily Walsh is the Community Outreach Director at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Her role is to connect the alliance in different relevant online communities in order to help raise awareness around the dangers that asbestos still poses today and to help prevent future outbreak of mesothelioma cancer. She is passionate about helping cancer patients discover holistic complementary therapies that address the well-being of the mind, body & spirit.